The drive to level Yorkshire’s rural economy must not be ‘lost’ in political uncertainty, landowners warn

A focus on affordable housing and heritage skills is essential to reversing a decades-long exodus, said Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Mark Tufnell.

Calling for planning reform as he warned the country’s system was “broken”, he spoke of the impact of the constraints on rural villages, which are facing decline with an aging population.

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And, revealing that he has already written to all Tory leadership candidates, he said change in the agricultural landscape must be embraced to improve rural economies.

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Mr Tufnell addressed members yesterday at the start of the Great Yorkshire Show, as landowners gathered for the country’s biggest farming event of the year.

Then speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he also said a recognition of the power to upgrade – or more accurately ‘stabilize’ – was key to fostering sustainability.

Expressing concern over the fulfillment of past political promises, with a change in government leadership and potentially political leadership imminent, he said: “This cannot be lost.

ACL President Mark Tufnell. CLA picture

“It’s not a North versus South divide, or an urban versus rural divide. We’re one country. We can’t just focus on big cities.

The CLA, citing findings from The Rural Powerhouse in May, outlined five recommendations from its analysis that underpin a £43billion plan for economic growth in the countryside.

From overhauling planning rules that risked turning national parks into “museum pieces in their own right”, to simplifying taxation, there was a lot to do, Mr Tufnell said.

GREAT YORKSHIRE SHOW FIRST DAY- TONY JOHNSON Crowds on the first day of The Great Yorkshire Show. Photo Tony Johnson

Edward Milbank is chairman of the CLA Northeast Committee and for Forestry and Woodlands.

The so-called ‘brain drain’, he said, with bright young people moving to more populated areas in search of opportunities, has impacted the health of rural economies, from pubs to hotels .

“A sustainable village used to be defined as having a shop and a post office, now it’s primary schools and bus services,” he said.

“They become more isolated. The whole issue needs to be taken more seriously.

Other major recommendations focused on infrastructure, skills gaps such as forestry and the fragility of the national grid – highlighted following Storm Arwen when power lines were knocked down leaving some without heat, water, electricity or telephones.

“We end up not being in the 21st century anymore, but in the 18th century,” Mr Tufnell said. “Northern Powergrid, and others, need additional funding and additional support.”

To farmers, he appealed to realize that “change is upon us”. And, warning that avenues of political intent were too often siloed in different government departments, Mr Tufnell said: ‘There should be someone in the cabinet with enough authority to butt heads. and push on it.

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